Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fire With Fire Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
After witnessing the brutal murders of a convenience store owner and his son; firefighter Jeremy Coleman barely escapes with his life. As he is forced to testify against the crime lord, Hagan, he is placed in the witness protection program under the watch of the U.S. Marshalls. As his new identity becomes compromised Jeremy is forced to take an unexpected course of action in order to get his life back and save the lives of those he loves. Fire With Fire stars franchise favorites Josh Duhamel (Transformers), Bruce Willis (The Expendables 2), Rosario Dawson (Unstoppable) and Vincent D’Onofrio (TV’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”). The film also stars Julian McMahon (TV’s “Nip/Tuck”), Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (The A-Team), Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson (Freelancers), Richard Schiff (TV’s “The West Wing”) and Vinnie Jones (X-Men: The Last Stand).

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Fire With Fire is another one of those stories about a man being at the wrong place at the right time (his co-star Bruce Willis perfected this kind of movie) where firefighter Jeremy Coleman (Josh Duhamel) ends up being present at a horrific double murder when he stopped at a convenience store to buy some alcohol after a long day’s work. The local neo-Nazi gang led by a sadist named Hagan (Vincent D’Onofrio) arrives to teach the store’s owner a lesson for not paying them for protection. Hagan murders the store owner’s teenage son in front of him before killing the man too. Jeremy sees both murders and is about to be killed himself but he manages to escape the store but he is still shot by one of Hagan’s henchmen (Vinnie Jones) before being rescued by his fellow firefighters.
At police headquarters, Jeremy is brought in to identify Hagan in a lineup. He is met by police detective Mike Cella (Bruce Willis) who has a personal interest in seeing Hagan put away as Hagan killed his partner awhile ago but he could never prove it. Hagan is as smart as he is crazy, and he manages to get an informant to give him Jeremy’s name, address, and social security number which he proves when Jeremy picks him out of the lineup. Despite Hagan’s attempt to intimidate him with his knowledge of all of Jeremy’s information, Jeremy still picks him as the shooter which firmly puts him in Hagan’s cross-hairs and his life will change. The police have no choice but to put Jeremy into the witness protection program and he’s forced to quit his career and change his name to Jeremy Douglas.
Sent to live in a new city, Jeremy is unhappy about the loss of his career and his friends but he finds some solace in his new romance with one of the U. S. Marshalls assigned to protect him named Talia Durham (Rosario Dawson). Things are getting very serious between them and Jeremy is looking forward to the trial so it will be all over and he can resume his old life. With the trial about to happen, Hagan’s attorney (Richard Schiff) arranges for him to be released from prison to await his imminent trial. Of course, once Hagan is released he starts to hunt down Jeremy’s friends and even tracks Jeremy down and sends two professional assassins to kill him.
When Talia is injured, Jeremy realizes that Hagan will always come for him until he kills him in retribution for getting him arrested. Jeremy knows that Hagan is too well connected for him to ever escape his wrath, so Jeremy escapes the protection of the U.S. Marshalls and starts to play the game like Hagan. He even tells Hagan that he’s coming for him and his men, but Hagan just laughs and dismisses Jeremy as a threat which is a mistake as Jeremy starts stalking Hagan’s men one at a time. Jeremy also enlists the help of a rival gang to help him go after Hagan by pointing out with Hagan out of the way, they will have complete control. But in the process of taking out Hagan’s men, he puts police detective Mike Cella in a difficult position as he wants Hagan and his men to pay for their crimes, but he also doesn’t want a vigilante going around and murdering people left and right. By pushing Jeremy into a corner, Hagan is about to learn just how far Jeremy will go to protect Talia and himself.
To be honest, I really didn’t have high expectations for this movie as the last couple of direct to video movies that have starred “50 Cent” haven’t been that great. It’s been interesting to see how these movies have attracted bigger and bigger stars as the token star in the past started with Val Kilmer and now these movies include Robert DeNiro or in this case, one of the biggest stars in the world, Bruce Willis. I’m guessing that they get a very large paycheck for a couple of hours of work but it’s obviously working as the stars and the supporting casts are getting better with each movie. Fire With Fire in particular has a very good cast, which is why I was interested in reviewing it.
Josh Duhamel is a talented and likeable enough actor who has been in big and small movies in the past and he is well paired with Willis and Dawson. The film’s bad guy is even better than he should be because he’s played by Vincent D’Onofrio who does a nice turn as the evil Hagan. Even the smaller roles are filled by talented people like Richard Schiff, Kevin Dunn, Julian McMahon, and up and coming action heavies Vinnie Jones and Quentin “Rampage” Jackson. Director David Barrett keeps things moving and makes this look better than its budget should allow. The stunts and the fight sequences are well staged and brutal and Barrett’s former second unit experience pays off. While my expectations going in were fairly low, I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy the movie a lot more than I anticipated.

Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

This 1080p (2.35:1) transfer was just as surprisingly good as the movie itself. Detail throughout the movie is very fine and exact with textures and facial features looking especially sharp and detailed. Colors are rare, but when they do show up they are accurate but during most of the film’s running time the film is spent in darkened areas. The black levels are very solid for the most part, but in some cases the darkness almost overwhelms the picture. This is a very clean looking and blemish free transfer which is very surprising for a low budget film.

Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Fire With Fire’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is also impressive. Dialogue is always clear and intelligible even during gunfights and the many hand to hand battles. The sound effects sound real and immediate as they bounce around the room. Directionality is fairly good and the rear speakers offer some nice ambiance and deliver the film’s dark atmosphere. The LFE channel also makes its presence known with a powerful and engaging insistence that is active throughout the film. This is a very good mix that sounds a lot better than you’d think.

Extras (3 out of 5 stars)

While the extras on this disc aren’t as extensive as I would like, there’s no denying that there’s more here than you’d usually find on one of these direct to video releases. As a bonus, they are all in high definition.
  • Audio commentary with director David Barrett and cinematographer Christopher Probst – This is a fairly dry commentary that is focused mostly on the technical challenges of the film and how they were staged and executed. It’s informative but not very lively.
  • Audio commentary with actors Vincent D’Onofrio, Julian McMahon, James Lesure and Eric Winter – This track is more entertaining as the actors talk about the movie and each other but it seems like Vincent D’Onofrio was recorded separately from the other actors for some reason.
  • Behind-the-scenes interviews - This is about nine minutes of the usual EPK fluff with the actors talking about the movie and a little bit about their characters.
  • Extended Interviews – If you want more time with actors Josh Duhamel, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Julian McMahon, Eric Winter, James Lesure and director David Barrett and producer Randall Emmett, then this is the extra for you. Basically, this is the same footage that hasn’t been edited down for the EPK extra. A lot more time is spent between the cast and crew of the movie, but there really isn’t a whole lot more learned from the experience. If you are a fan of these people, then I guess you might enjoy this but with no appearance by either Willis or D’Onofrio, it’s not as appealing to me.

Summary (4 out of 5 stars)

Fire With Fire is a decent action-thriller that is made a lot more interesting by a great cast that includes Duhamel, Willis, Dawson, D’Onofrio, Dunn, Schiff, and more. It’s directed with an assured hand by David Barrett who has plenty of experience filming second unit and stunt sequences from his past. This Blu-ray is also much better than one would have guessed, with a very nice picture and a powerful audio mix too. The extras are decent but could have been more extensive but overall I think most people will be pleasantly surprised by this movie and its Blu-ray.
Order your copy today!

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